Lives of the fellows

Herbert Victor Morlock

b.11 February 1899 d.18 May 1975
MC(1918) MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BS Lond(1924) MRCP(1925) MD(1927) FRCP(1940)

Morlock was born in Upper Norwood, London S.E. He was the son of Philip Henry Morlock, an export merchant, and Mary Aliene, daughter of John William Goodridge, a master mariner and Merchant Navy captain. There had been no previous medical connection in the family.

He was educated at Dulwich College and went to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, for his medical training. His career was interrupted by the 1914-1918 war, and he served with distinction in the 1st Rifle Brigade. At the age of 19 he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry.

Morlock returned to civilian life in 1919 and resumed his medical studies, qualifying MRCS, LRCP in 1923. He was appointed Midwifery house surgeon and subsequently house physician to the Professorial Unit, and became chief assistant to Morley Fletcher, then casualty physician. He took the MD in 1927, and in that year, only 28 years old, was appointed assistant physician to the Miller General Hospital and assistant physician to the Hampstead General Hospital, where he met A. J. Scott Pinchin and became interested in diseases of the chest. In 1929 he was appointed assistant physician to the London Chest Hospital, where with Scott Pinchin he began to enquire into the methods of diagnosis and investigation of thoracic disease.

Until 1931 bronchoscopy in this country had been carried out mainly by laryngologists using general anaesthesia, at that time open chloroform and ether. With any lung infection or bronchial obstruction, in the absence of antibiotics this was a prescription for bronchopneumonia and a fatal outcome. This was also the era of rapid increase in the incidence of bronchial carcinoma. There was reluctance to the use of local anaesthesia. For these reasons, in late 1930, he and Scott Pinchin went to Haslinger’s Clinic in Vienna, to learn the technique of bronchoscopy under local anaesthesia. On returning they started a diagnostic clinic at the London Chest Hospital. Morlock was the driving force in the combination. With the help of Mr. Schranz, of the Genito-Urinary Company, the Jackson bronchoscope was adapted to the use of a telescope and a suction channel was incorporated. A powerful suction pump was devised. By this means continuous suction was available and it was possible to get a clear view of the trachea and major bronchi. He and Scott Pinchin (Ob. 1936) started writing on bronchoscopy under local anaesthesia. Several classical papers were produced. They demonstrated that so-called epituberculosis, until then regarded as a form of upper lobe tuberculous pneumonia, was in fact atelectasis due to occlusion of the bronchus from ulceration or pressure of a tuberculous lymph node. Their contribution to medicine was the more efficient diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary suppuration by bronchoscopy, lavage and suction drainage. Many patients were kept alive by these means until the advent of antibiotics made survival more assured.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 and dispersal of medical staff, Morlock concentrated his work at the Miller General Hospital and he gave up his West End consulting room. After the war he never seemed to regain his medical enthusiasm and became more involved in his country estate.

In his youth he had given evidence of great physicial energy. He was a keen rugger player and represented his school, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and the Barbarians. He was an extrovert and admitted it. He wore a morning coat, stiff shirt and cuffs, a cravat with a pearl pin and a silk hat, which he maintained offset his youthful appearance, impressed the patients and gave them confidence. He was a pioneer and did not underrate his contribution to medicine. In consequence he was regarded as an ‘enfant terrible’ by many of his senior colleagues. Nevertheless he was looked up to by his juniors as an outstanding physician and teacher. Those who really got to know him saw him as a boyish, cheerful, loyal and generous colleague. He gave support and encouragement where he thought it was needed. Many owe their success in later life to the advice he gave them at a critical stage of their career. He was warmhearted and understanding to his patients, many of them suffering from diseases at that time much dreaded, tuberculosis and carcinoma.

His main contribution to medicine was the establishment of bronchoscopy as a safe and essential investigation in the diagnosis of pulmonary disease.

EH Hudson

[Brit.med.J., 1975, 2, 757; Lancet, 1975, 1, 1390]

(Volume VI, page 347)

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